Manitoba announces new pandemic response system

By | August 19, 2020

WINNIPEG — Manitoba has rolled out a new system to show where COVID-19 cases are appearing in the province, and the measures being taken to stop the spread.

Premier Brian Pallister, along with chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin, unveiled the Pandemic Response System Wednesday afternoon at the Manitoba Legislative Building, calling it the first system of its kind in Canada. 

The new online resource will give a more tailored and focused approach to COVID-19 by region, localized site, or sector in the province, according to the government.

The goal is to implement targeted measures to reduce transmission and contain the spread, rather than putting restrictions on the entire province.

“The Pandemic Response System is our next step in guiding what we can do together to keep ourselves informed and make decision about our health and the health of others,” said Roussin.

 The Response Plan will class COVID-19 risk by four levels in the province. The risk levels are:

  • Red (critical),which means community spread is not contained, and/or there are significant strains on the healthcare system;
  • Orange (restricted), which means community transmission is occurring, and public health measures are being taken to manage the impact on health and the healthcare system;
  • Yellow (caution), which means there are low levels of community transmission; and
  • Green (limited risk), which means the spread of COVID-19 is broadly contained, or there is a vaccine or effective treatment available.

On Wednesday, the system launched with Manitoba in the “Yellow” category, with the province saying COVID-19 continues to remain a threat, but community transmission levels are low.

“These four levels at a province and a regional level and again at specific levels as the epidemiology provides. Public health will be monitoring a number of indicators to guide us on when level changes should occur. Again it’s not going to be the result of single indicator that will guide us, it’s the multiple indicators and trends and the current situation that will guide us to lift or further restrict actions,” Roussin said.

If Manitobans are hoping the province will see a green level soon, Roussin said not to expect that in the near future.

“I think that having that green in there, knowing that we are not at that level now and may not be in the near future, shows us that we are still cautious, that we are with this virus and we expect this curve that we’re in right now to start flattening again. But we’re going to still be in that cautious zone, because this virus isn’t done with us.”

He also noted this new program will help Manitobans learn to live with the virus.

“So for instance, we could see transmission occurring in a specific sector, many outbreaks linked to a specific sector. Then we would put restrictions on that sector while not addressing any others that we are not seeing transmission. So it allows us to work more targeted in that approach.”

The province said there are multiple and isolated clusters of cases, which are mostly contained. Businesses can continue operating, with some restrictions in place for occupancy and physical distancing.

If the “Orange” (restricted) category comes into effect, gathering sizes may be limited, travel restrictions could be implemented, and businesses could be forced to put further occupancy limits in place. 

If the “Red” (critical) level comes into effect, non-essential businesses could be ordered to close, and restaurants would have to shift to take-out, delivery, or drive-thru options.

The system will be available in both English and French.

‘WHAT IS THIS GOVERNMENT DOING TO RESPOND?’: NDP

NDP Leader Wab Kinew responded to the new program released by the government on Wednesday.

He said the program will be something Manitobans are interested in and study, but he notes the province has still failed to do something for places like Brandon.

“You ever drive up to a construction site and you see the person doing the flagging not paying attention? To me, that’s what it seems like this government is doing now,” Kinew said.

“We don’t have any additional precautions being put in place to protect those folks. We have, in that community, if not the highest, one the highest cases counts per capita in the entire country, and yet this government isn’t putting in any additional precautions, adding any additional testing capacity, doing anything new to help Brandonites. The bigger question we ought to be asking is what is this government doing to respond?”

He added the new colour code system is good to announce, but if the government isn’t going to help people, it is not doing its job.

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